Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) is a highly effective treatment for menopause and its many symptoms. It is even used by post-menopausal women for longevity and improvement of quality of life symptoms that lack of hormones causes. BHRT is uniquely different from other traditional forms of hormone replacement because the bio-identical hormones are identical to the hormones the body makes. This “form-fits-function” approach to HRT provides many benefits over traditional hormone pills or injections.
Menopause is a natural part of aging in women and every woman will reach menopause in her lifetime. The symptoms of menopause and its severity will be different in every woman but certain common features include, hot flashes, moodiness and crying spells, difficulty sleeping or insomnia, anxiety, palpitations or rapid heart beat, vaginal dryness, loss of interest in sex, loss of ability to achieve orgasm, pain with intercourse, bleeding after intercourse, thinning of skin, decreased elasticity of skin, increased wrinkles, burning with urination, urinary incontinence such as with laughing or coughing, weight gain, memory problems and difficulty concentrating. While these are certainly very bothersome symptoms, most of them will not negatively impact your overall health.
Consequences of Menopause
Menopause does, however, carry with it several very serious women’s health issues, such as increased heart disease, bone loss, and fractures due to osteoporosis. Age for reaching menopause ranges from 40 to 58 with 51 being an average age a woman enters menopause. As a woman ages, her ovaries lose their ability to produce estrogen and progesterone and the brain tries to increase that production by producing stimulatory hormones, such as LH and FSH. Rising levels of these hormones are a hallmark of menopause and aid in diagnosis. The levels of LH and FSH keep rising as the ovaries do not respond with sufficient amounts of estrogen and progesterone.
This process is gradual and occurs over months to years. Hormone levels often fluctuate and periods become irregular and then cease as the levels become too low. The fluctuations in hormones often give rise to symptoms, which typically worsen as levels decrease. Most cells in the body have estrogen and progesterone receptors and thus not having those hormones leads to a wide array of symptoms. For example, hot flashes occur when estrogens stops regulating the body’s thermostat center in the brain, and libido decreases as other hormones drop along with estrogen and progesterone. Vaginal mucosa atrophies as estrogen ceases to maintain proper tissue environment.
Sexual Dysfunction & Bio-identical Hormone Therapy For Women
Sexual dysfunction affects nearly 40 million women but often goes undiagnosed and untreated. At Resilience Clinic Health Systems uses hormone replacement therapy to improve sexual symptoms in women undergoing menopause and beyond. In many cases, sexual dysfunction comes down imbalances of hormones that control desire, response, and pleasure. Several key hormones contribute to proper female sexual function, which include oxytocin, estrogen, and progesterone.
Oxytocin is a fundamental hormone to the female orgasm and proper vaginal sexual arousal. It is active both in the brain and in the body. Estrogen and progesterone replacement, in combination with testosterone can effectively treat and help you regain pleasurable sexual function.
Some of the other conditions our physicians treat with BHRT may include:
Benefits of BHRT For Women
BHRT is a form of alternative medicine, and has been promoted as a panacea for many diseases rather than a means of relieving the symptoms of menopause and reducing the risk of osteoporosis, which are the goals of traditional hormone replacement therapy.
BHRT treatments are:
A common misconception about BHRT is that it’s all the same and it all causes the same risks. The media often confuses similar terms in their reports of negative outcomes and needlessly steers patients away from this important therapy. In 2012 the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) released their HRT position statement supporting BHRT for symptomatic female patients and even endorsed bio-identical hormones as having distinct safety and dosing advantages.
Conjugated equine estrogen (CEE) and Medroxyprovera (MPA) are two non-identical hormones that were studied in the large Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) and were found to have significant breast cancer rates when administered together. We later found out that this combination produces cancer causing estrogen metabolites that turn on cancer genes in the breast. The media made this very public but never mentioned that even CEE given alone actually had a reduced risk of breast cancer. Further large studies on bio-identical estradiol and bio-identical progesterone showed null risks of breast cancer.
This difference in the medications used if fundamentally important to BHRT. Estradiol is the hormone that is exactly identical to that made by the body. Estrogens include CEE, which are completely different in structure and thus have a different risk profile.
Progesterone is the bio-identical version of the progestin group, which also includes MPA, the non-identical hormone now linked to increasing breast cancer as part of HRT protocols using this medication. Other bio-identical hormones used include testosterone and DHEA, which are the androgens and are present in women in small amounts. Testosterone can also be metabolized to estrogen in the female body and is sometimes used for that purpose. The androgens are generally very safe in women.